Back in April, I wrote to the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – at the age of 62 – accompany me to Shotts Prison to perform the physical and dangerous role of a Prison Officer which he expected them to do at the age of 68. Sadly, this invitation was denied.
But, yesteday in a debate on Prison Officer Pensions, I got another chance to extend that invitation to the new Ministers to come to Shotts prison to complete mandatory annual control and restraint training. Under the UK Government’s policy, this would require a 68-year-old to physically restrain, potentially on their own, a violent person at the peak of their fitness.
Our Prison Officers are far too often ignored when compared to other emergency services like our Police, Fire and Ambulance services. Just because Prison Officers are out of sight, does not mean they should be out of mind. Making them work to 68 indicates a failure to recognise the danger involved in their role and is impacting on the morale of the workforce.
The UK Government’s policy on Prison Officer pensions reflects its policy on pensions in general. It’s not just Prison Officers who can’t be expected to work until 68, it’s millions of workers across Scotland and the rest of the UK. People are being expected to work until they drop. It’s easy for members of the Cabinet and the wealthy to retire whenever they like. To own their home, have plenty in savings and a massive pension pot. But for people in my constituency, they work hard all their days – sometimes on low wages – to receive a pension that is one of the lowest in Western Europe. The UK Government is allowing this. Working people deserve to earn a decent wage and expect a fair pension at a reasonable age.